July 22, 2021

Victorville City Council Nonsense

A report in the Press-Enterprise about an exciting city council meeting in Victorville. If the Press-Enterprise is to be believed, a man was arrested at the July 20 city council meeting for the crime of recording the meeting. This was an open Brown Act meeting, and you can watch all of it on YouTube, so where's the crime? Naturally, I had to go watch the video to understand what really happened. The very short summary is: incompetent reporting from a mediocre newspaper. The longer explanation follows.

The Victorville city council has a problem that we've seen before in other governing bodies. There's one city councilmember, Blanca Gomez, who does not want to observe the rules of procedure for the meeting. Her need to express her opinion is immediate and more important than any other matter before the city council. She does not need to ask for recognition. She does not need to express herself politely. She does not have to contribute constructively to the meeting. We've seen this many times, and the person who behaves this way never seems to realize that they could actually accomplish something if they followed the rules of the meeting. I have no data to support my opinion, but I think a lot of these people imagine they are the heroes of the downtrodden and they "prove" that fantasy to themselves over and over by being shut down my meeting chairs for failure to follow the rules of the meeting. Far from benefitting the downtrodden, of course, this behavior just wastes time and disrespects those who voted her in, hoping that she might actually accomplish something. I call elected officials who behave like this "grashites."

In the video, please skip ahead to 4:13:07 where Gomez begins to remark on the motion before the council. Mayor Jones tries to interrupt her.

Mayor Jones is the other half of this problem. Grashites do not do well in a vacuum, but put them under an imperious, arrogant chair and they thrive (and get articles in the newspaper!). Mayor Jones does not see her primary task to be overseeing a cordial and effective meeting. Her job is to keep people aware that she is imperious and arrogant. After all, the mayor of Victorville (pop. 128,000) is not a figure to be trifled with.

Unfortunately, the audio recording system in Victorville is not quite up to snuff, and whenever Jones tries to stop Gomez from speaking, Gomez leans closer to her microphone and raises her voice, so nothing can be understood. I couldn't understand these comments of Gomez, nor why Jones considered them out of order. Gomez continued to try to talk as the council was voting! That particular vote passed 3-1 with Gomez being the only No vote.

Gomez continued speaking even as Jones introduced the next item on the agenda, and didn't stop when the city manager began to speak. Minutes later when Jones called on Gomez for comments, Gomez had to ask her to clarify what agenda item they were discussing. Her need to speak over everyone else was more important than paying attention to where the meeting was going.

At 4:19:39 a bald-headed man enters the video frame and sits in the second row of the audience, first seat to the right of the central aisle. We will call him "Bald Man."

Then, shortly after the council began discussion of filling a vacancy on the planning commission at 4:20:29, another man enters and sits in the third row, second seat from the central aisle. He is wearing a fedora and a suit jacket and appears to be wearing a neck gaiter as a face mask (of the sort that is currently acceptable as an anti-COVID mask). He is holding an awake smartphone in his right hand. This will turn out to be Robert Daniel Rodriguez. If he is recording the council meeting, that seems to be secondary to his recording other things around him. Shortly after he sits down, he aims the phone (as if taking a photo or recording a video) to his right. Later we will see that there is a person sitting two seats to Rodriguez'a right, but at this point in the video they are off screen. Then at 4:22:54 Rodriguez appears to aim his phone's camera over the shoulder of Bald Man (who is just in front of and to the left of Rodriguez) as if trying to record whatever documents Bald Man has on his lap. This is probably technically legal, but it is damn rude as he is getting right into the man's personal space.

At 4:32:59 Jones is introducing the next item and pauses as she leafs through some papers. Gomez, without seeking recognition, says "I'm sorry. We're being entertained...there's discussion between your husband - to the chair - and the two women that are next to Mr. Metzler [the city manager, sitting at the dais]. That's very distracting." Jones thanked her for that, but then lectured her on seeking recognition from the chair before speaking. Gomez interrupted Jones saying "It's on video!" I've no idea what she meant by that. Jones then moves on with the meeting, not addressing the issue.

At 4:39:15 Rodriguez leaves his seat, heading toward the back of the room via the central aisle. At 4:39:44 he returns to the same seat. After getting seated, he takes up some papers in his left hand. This suggests that he went to the back of the room to get a copy of the agenda and was now looking at it, but all you can see is that it's papers. It's difficult to tell (the video resolution is only 720 and the ZOOM logo overlays the area where Rodriguez is seated) if he is reading the agenda or holding it up so that council members cannot see what little of his face remains visible.

At 4:40:44 Gomez stands up while the city manager is answering her question. She walks over to stand behind Jones and appears to be looking at something on the dais in front of whoever is to our right (the mayor's left) of Jones. Jones doesn't react to this and it appears to be irrelevant to our story, but it was strange. Gomez immediately returned to her seat.

At 4:42:55 Gomez rises from her seat again, but this time walks to our left, off the dais and off screen. A moment later we see her walk across the bottom of the screen to sit next to Rodriguez. At that point Jones interrupted to point out Gomez had left the dais without her permission. You can see Gomez gesturing, and Bald Man turned around briefly to glance, so it seems that Gomez and Rodriguez may be in conversation. I have never been in any California government meeting where a board member left the dais to talk privately to someone in the audience while the meeting was in full operation. After a minute or so, Gomez rises and walks to the left and off screen again. At 4:44:01 Gomez is back in her seat on the dais. A few moments later, as the mayor pro tem was asking a question, Gomez interrupts to ask Jones if she will recognize that she has returned to the dais. If you make it your mission to offend every member of the council, you will not make much progress toward any other goals.

At 4:45:35 the camera pulls back a bit so that now we can see the tops of the backs of the seats in the row where Rodriguez is seated. This allows us to see that someone is seated two seats to the right of Rodriguez. While the city manager was answering the mayor pro tem's question (which she had to repeat because of Gomez's earlier interruption) Gomez interrupted again. "Thank you for moving the camera. I appreciate that targeting. I'm watching." Jones began, "Member Gomez..." whereupon Gomez raised her voice so Jones could not be understood. Gomez: "No, I'm going to put it on the record. I see what you guys are doing." [Grashites live in a world where they are surrounded by conspiracies.] Gomez continued: "You, [some unintelligible name], and all of the [unclear] are driving that man back there." Gomez continued speaking and gesturing, but since she had raised her voice and gotten closer to the microphone, it was mostly garbled and I could make no sense of it. Then it seems Gomez's microphone was shut off. Jones asked the city manager to continue. Gomez continued to rant and either they turned her microphone back on or she yelled loud enough to be heard clearly on others microphones. "You guys are all on camera," Gomez shouted. At 4:47:42 Jones says that Gomez is not recognized, so it seems she must have been speaking again, but her microphone was turned off so we couldn't hear what she said. Gomez continued gesturing and then spoke loud enough to be heard saying "Nobody says anything to you. If I'm..." Here Jones spoke over Gomez, so Gomez's speech became unintelligible until she said "You have to be honest don't you. So correct yourself when you're talking [something in Spanish]". Jones was speaking at the same time. Jones denied speaking to someone. Gomez responded "I don't recognize you either, woman. Yes, I'm speaking to you." Jones said Gomez was "very much out of order." Gomez responded "You are out of order." Gomez continued to speak unintelligibly with a raised voice while Jones spoke. Jones repeated the Gomez had not been recognized. Gomez responded "You haven't been recognized." Jones asked Gomez to bring herself to order. Gomez responded "You shall bring yourself to order." Jones apologized to the city manager who had been trying to answer a question. Gomez said "There's no need to apologize for your behavior."

While discussing an agenda item on translation services, Jones made a motion. That's at 4:51:55. After getting a second, Jones recognized Gomez who offered a substitute motion. But she then she continued on with commentary on her substitute motion instead of waiting for a second. Jones stopped her saying "The motion, not commentary, just the motion." Gomez responded "Well, you do it all the time, so I'm following after your..." Jones interrupted her. There was no second, so Gomez's motion died.

While Jones was discussing her original motion, Gomez (without seeking recognition, of course) asked "So, can you modify your motion and say that?" Jones said she was not recognized. Jones explained that she was commenting on her pending motion. Gomez replied "Oh, you're commenting. Got it." At 4:53:57 Gomez interrupts Jones again starting to say "Which is easy when you..." but Jones spoke over her. Then Gomez interrupted again saying "I'd like to modify your motion to add exactly what you said, because you've brought a point that is not part of the motion." Jones said Gomez was not recognized. Gomez said "So then your a bunch of talk." After more discussion, Gomez again spoke without seeking recognition at 4:55:22 saying "There is no timeline, so whenever you guys want..." Jones interrupted her saying "Member Gomez has not been recognized and will suspend and bring herself to order." Gomez responded "You can suspend and bring yourself to order."

Gomez is actually recognized at 4:55:38. She began to read the staff recommendation from the agenda. Jones interrupted her, saying "We're talking about the pending motion." "Is this not the pending motion?" Gomez asks. She's been so caught up in her own childish theatrics she has failed to notice Jones made a motion that was different than staff's recommendation. But, you know, there's no need to actually know what's going on if you are a hero of the downtrodden. Jones explains that her motion was different than the recommendation. Gomez asked Jones to repeat her motion which she did.

Amidst that, at 4:55:59 we can see that Rodriguez swings his phone around to the right and extends his arm, apparently trying to photograph the man two seats to his right. That man waves him away, then pushes his hand. Rodriguez pushes his phone close to the guy again. The man seems to speak to someone off screen and then holds up his hand, seemingly trying to block the lens on Rodriguez's phone. Rodriguez is not discouraged.

Jones interrupts her discussion with Gomez saying "Mr Jones! The gentleman. There will be no communication in the...Mr. De Bortnowsky, does a member of the audience have a right to record another member of the audience?" Mr. De Bortnowsky, the city attorney, answered that "Right now that looks like they're disturbing the meeting and you could ask them to leave if they're going to be disruptive."

Jones says "The gentleman in the mask will cease at this moment or I'm going to ask you to leave." At about the same time Rodriguez reached over to the man on his right and appears to touch or nearly touch his chest. Gomez says "He's been recording." Jones says "My husband does not record." Ah! So now we learn that the man two seats to the right of Rodriguez is Mr. Jones, the First Gentleman of Victorville. We can see he has his phone out too. Later he slips it inside his pocket. Gomez says "I know. He's on my camera. Don't worry about...I HAVE HIM RECORDING. DON'T WORRY 'BOUT IT. Don't worry about it, I got it on my camera. Doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. I got it. Both of them are recording." Jones directs a deputy to look at Rodriguez's phone to "see if he's been recording." This whole back and forth does make it sound as if Victorville council members think recording their meetings is not permitted. The deputy appears on screen at 4:57:35. Gomez gets up from her seat and walks to our left, off screen. Jones calls a 5-minute recess. Video ceases and resumes at 4:59:54 where we see Rodriguez and three deputies now standing in the central aisle with Gomez between them. Jones tries to continue the meeting while this now much more obvious disruption is occurring right in front of the dais. Gomez has her phone out and appears to be photographing the deputies, as is Rodriguez. Then, as a vote is being taken, Rodriguez and Gomez appear to cooperate with the deputies and walk toward the back of the room and off screen.

Remaining items on the agenda were skipped and the council returned to a closed session that had begun before this open session. The subject was the employee evaluation of the city manager. Gomez was absent from the closed session. Jones adjourned the meeting solely by gaveling without saying a word. Is that valid?

BTW, if you're looking for the agenda, the link on the city's website doesn't work. This is a link that works. And this links to the agenda packet for this July 20, 2021 meeting. There is nothing written on the agenda nor in City Council Policy and Procedures Manual to suggest that recording of meetings is prohibited. The only mention in the manual is to specify that it must not disrupt the meeting.

permalink | July 22, 2021 at 02:02 PM | Comments (0)

July 20, 2021

Indictments For Gender Reveal Party

Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez have been indicted for "one count of involuntary manslaughter, three felony counts of recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury, four felony counts of recklessly causing a fire to inhabited structures and 22 misdemeanor counts" because their gender reveal party on September 5, 2020, involved a pyrotechnic device that ignited the El Dorado Fire which killed one firefighter, injured thirteen others, burned 22,680 acres, destroying five homes and damaging four others.

permalink | July 20, 2021 at 06:01 PM | Comments (0)

Rick Daniels Makes The Front Page Of The L.A. Times

Rick Daniels, the former city manager of Desert Hot Springs, has been city manager of Needles since he left our fair city. The city is the water purveyor there. Water came from four wells until three of them were shut down for high levels of magnesium. The city has not adequately maintained infrastructure and doesn't have the $1.5 million to dig a new well. MSWD pays a lot more than that for a new well, but Needle's water table might be a lot higher, being right on the Colorado River.

One of America's hottest cities is down to one water well. What happens if the taps go dry?

JULY 20, 2021 5 AM PT

NEEDLES, Calif. — Rick Daniels lies awake at night worrying about a rusty contraption in a forlorn field, littered with discarded pipes and fire hydrants.

It is the only water pump in Needles that meets state water quality standards, running 23 hours a day to keep up with demand, according to Daniels, the city manager. That's a thin margin in one of America's hottest cities, an urban speck in the desert near California's border with Arizona.

If this lone pump fails, 5,000 residents face the ultimate risk of taps running dry, as temperatures soar past 120 degrees and people need to gulp as much as two gallons daily. In June, a transient person died while sitting on a curb midday, one of about 10 people a year who succumb to heat, city officials say.

Across California and the West, the current drought is causing many wells to dry up, but few other communities are looking at their single water lifeline going to zero.

"We are incredibly vulnerable," Daniels said. "We are talking about life and death."

The Colorado River flows right through this isolated historic railroad town, carrying about 6 million gallons every minute. But under western water laws, the city can't pull a single drop from the river.

Historically, the city has depended on four wells that draw from the river's nearby aquifer.

That worked fine for decades until late last year, when California's water authorities notified the city that three of its wells failed to meet state standards because of a naturally occurring mineral — manganese — that affects health. A May citation found the city had violated state water law and ordered a corrective plan by the end of this year.

The city says it can't afford a fix, which would include a new well for $1.5 million.

So, Needles' single well works around the clock. The city has three tanks that could keep water flowing for 24 to 36 hours if the pump stops — assuming everything else were to go just right. By comparison, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California requires its member water agencies to have a seven-day emergency supply.

Needles officials say state officials don't appreciate their desperate situation and protested that the order could jeopardize public safety. The city wants to keep the decommissioned wells as a backup in case of emergency.

Eric Zúñiga, the district engineer at the State Water Resources Control Board who signed the citations, said the board is encouraging the city to make its system more redundant, either by filtering or treating the bad water or by finding new sources. In an email, he added that his citation does not forbid the city from using wells contaminated with manganese if it notifies customers, but city officials believe they will be forced to physically disconnect them.

It is doubtful that, in an emergency, the city would facilitate a mass casualty event by not somehow supplying water — even contaminated water or water taken unlawfully from the Colorado River. But it has entered unknown territory, a zone of risk where few other cities venture.

Daniels agrees, but adds, "This citation was outrageous, insensitive and out of touch."

By all accounts, the city's water system is decrepit. In 2020, a 16-inch city water main burst at a bridge abutment over I-40 and dumped roughly 500,000 gallons on the freeway, a main freight route from California ports. The spill halted eastbound traffic for hours until one lane was opened. It took days to remove 3-foot-thick mud.

A lot of California water agencies are in tough shape, because of aging infrastructure, drought, rising temperatures and political priorities lying elsewhere. Jay Lund, director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, said that California has about 9,000 regulated water utilities and that as many as 1,000 of those systems have problems of some type.

Decision-making authority is diluted. Municipal water managers make most decisions and report to regional water boards. The regional boards are overseen by the state water board. The Department of Water Resources controls the supply of surface water. The California Public Utilities Commission oversees rate setting and service. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has some jurisdiction over state operations. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation controls the Colorado River.

"We have quite a few chiefs looking over this deal," Lund said. "If you are a regulator, you have all these systems all over the place, and you don't have much staff."

Needles, among the poorest communities in California, has always prided itself for persevering. But now an inhospitable climate is becoming unbearable in so many ways.

"Every time there is a heat wave, Needles is up there among the hottest temperatures of the day," said Brian Lada, an Accuweather meteorologist. A ranking of the nation's most blistering cities by Lada didn't include Needles because it is too small, he said.

A housing survey found that 55% of the residents are on some form of welfare assistance. There isn't a grocery market in town, though a well-stocked liquor store has a few aisles for canned goods and frozen food. A handful of cannabis dispensaries and shuttered 1950s-era motels cluster around the main drag, the historic Route 66.

The city's economy and its tax revenue are hurt by its proximity to Arizona, which is right across the Colorado River, and Nevada. On a recent day, gasoline was selling in Needles for $5.19 a gallon, but across the bridge it was under $2.90. A Walmart is 12 miles up Highway 95 in Bullhead City, Ariz.

Many of the highly paid in Needles live in Nevada or Arizona, spending their California income out of state. BNSF railroad has a crew station in Needles with about 500 employees, but the vast majority live in Nevada or Arizona, city officials say. Indeed, nearly all cars in the BNSF employee parking lot have Arizona or Nevada license plates.

Calling Needles "remote" would be an understatement. The city is more than 200 miles from the county seat, San Bernardino. Its state senator lives farther away in the Central Valley. The nearest major California city is Barstow, 140 miles away. Las Vegas is 100 miles away. It isn't clear what friends it would have in an emergency.

Even now, after begging for intervention, the city hasn't gotten much help. Gov. Gavin Newsom, state legislators and its congressional representative either didn't respond to letters or don't offer much, according to Needles officials.

"We need help," said Rainie Torrance, a city utility manager.

A nonprofit coalition of labor unions and contractors, known as Rebuild SoCal Partnership, has taken up the city's cause. It has helped contact state officials and prepare grant requests. Marci Stanage, the group's director for water and environmental relations, said she is surprised that nobody has responded to the city's problems or her group's efforts.

After visiting Needles to advise them on a new well, Dave Sorem, an engineer on the group's board and vice president of a Baldwin Park construction firm, said: "The city is in more trouble than it realizes. California has a $76-billion budget surplus, but it can't help out for a million-and-a-half-dollar well? Come on."

The city's single pump could fail for any number of reasons. Water wells have intake pipes at their bottoms, with screens to allow the water to flow into the pipe. The screens can collapse and plug the well, according to Bryan Hickstein, the city's chief water operator. The steel well casings can collapse, he said, or the motor can burn out, as it did last year. The city had a spare motor, and a contractor rushed out from Anaheim with a crane.

The city's problems began last November when the water board put the city on notice that three of its wells showed manganese levels above the maximum allowable level of 50 micrograms per liter. Then in May, the water board issued a citation, requiring a corrective action plan by the end of 2023.

Daniels said he complained about the list of requirements in the citation, and shortly after, the board issued a revised citation that moved the corrective action plan deadline to the end of 2021. Zúñiga, the water board engineer, said the original date was a typographical error and had nothing to do with comments from the city.

Manganese, not to be confused with magnesium, is a metal abundant in the Earth's crust. At low levels, it is an essential nutrient for humans, but at elevated levels it poses undefined risks. The state established a maximum allowable level, citing "aesthetic" issues with high concentrations, which stain clothes, sinks and stucco. It also leaves water with a bitter taste. Iron was another aesthetic problem in the wells, but it is generally not high enough to be harmful.

Water toxicologists say there is growing evidence that at higher concentrations manganese can cause neurological disorders, particularly in young children.

"We are moving toward a regulated level," said Donald Smith, a recognized national expert on manganese and a toxicology professor at UC Santa Cruz. "It is unclear whether a level of 50 micrograms per liter causes neurological effects. My professional opinion is that there is reason to be concerned. We don't know what level is safe and what level is unsafe."

California may be the only state to regulate manganese. Minnesota has a guidance limit of 100 micrograms per liter, twice California's level. Zúñiga said he is not aware of any other states that regulate the metal.

Janice Paget, a board member of the Needles Chamber of Commerce, said most people in town aren't aware of the manganese issue.

"I don't even know what kind of side effect it causes," she said.

Cost is a more common complaint, Paget said, noting that she and her husband, the only surgeon in Needles, had a water bill of $174 in June.

Drilling a new well would be one solution for Needles. The city hired a hydrologist who identified a site unlikely to be contaminated.

But the city doesn't have the roughly $1.5 million needed to dig the well, Daniels said. As it is, utility customers are more than $300,000 behind on their bills.

permalink | July 20, 2021 at 07:40 AM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2021

Gubernatorial Candiate Forum At The Pickford, July 22

UNITE 911, a group whose name is appropriately all-caps, will host a gubernatorial candidate forum at the Pickford Theater on July 22 as part of their ongoing effort to save us from "the Marxist/Socialist/Communist agenda." So far they have commitments from six people who you never heard of:

  • Anthony Trimino. His website gives prominent placement to a video of his family in which two of his sons dress like carnival barkers. He's proud of the business he started, but he will not name the business nor even describe what sort of business it is. In his video he shows a building bearing the name "Traffik," so maybe that's his business. He is willing to specify that he is a member of the Forbes Agency Council, "an invitation-only, fee-based organization for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies." IOW, no big deal. On the issues, he says absolutely nothing specific. He does, however, say that he believes "faith" is a verb, and then proceeds to use it as a noun. I want to see him write a sentence using "faith" as a verb. I'm sure Shakespeare could have done it. Even on the perennial Republican subject of cutting taxes he can't name a single tax that he would cut. He avoids most of the so-called "dog whistles" that Trump supporters in other states use, but in his campaign video he does cite Critical Race Theory, but like all the other Republicans he fails to point out what schools are teaching it.
  • Steve Lodge seems to be best known as the fiancé of Vicki Gunvalson who was on Real Housewives of Orange County. I assume he is not a descendant of Henry Cabot Lodge, or he would mention that on his website. He has that annoying habit of capitalizing random words for no apparent reason, like this: "stared in the Television series." Ignore the spelling error, why is "television" capitalized? He's got a solution for homelessness: incarceration of drug addicts, alcoholics and the mentally ill. "They’re doing something similar to this down in Dallas County, Texas," he said. (You hear so many Californians pining for the Elysium that is Dallas County, Texas.) He doesn't say what he's going to do with those single moms who lost their job and just couldn't pay the rent. Also, he seems to suggest California should build MORE hydroelectric dams, claiming the drought is not the problem, lack of dams are the problem. He wants to terminate the High Speed Rail project which is funded with a voter-approved bond issue, so he would have to submit that to another vote of the people first.
  • Sarah Stephens. This is NOT Anthony Trimino's family. One of her principles is "Believing we can change everything and Make California peoples home again" which, even if you insert the probably missing apostrophe, is still a tortured sentence. And she claims to have an English degree from San Diego State where she graduated Magna Cum Laude! "Having been married to her husband Daniel, who has served with the United States Air Force and San Diego Police Department, Sarah has forever known and lived the price of FREEDOM." What does that mean? She describes herself as a pastor. Simple Googling does not turn up her church. She says she is "pro-life" "Not only will we be increasing the amount of people in our state, but we will be helping women make the right decision for their lives that they will NEVER regret." Because we all know it's the state government that knows best whether a teenager should carry a pregnancy to term. And those teenagers will never regret that because in her Republican government there will be a vast expansion of state-funded child care services and cash stipends to the parents of all newborns, right? Sure! "She believes that UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE should California churches or places of worship EVER be closed again!" So, no locks on the doors or gates. All houses of worship to be open to all 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. It's not like they're private property or anything. "Vaccinations should not have to require a reason to skip a vaccine." This woman was an English major?! I've gotten a lot of vaccines in my life, but none of them required me to give a reason to skip them. Mostly I just had to hold still for a moment. Check out this campaign video.
  • Doug Ose. This guy at least has some political history. He served three terms in the House of Representatives and ran for governor in 2018 (Ballotpedia). According to Wikipedia, he graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.S. in business administration. On his campaign website he argues against COVID policies of the past. As for vaccinations, he says they should be decentralized. AFAIK they are decentralized, but maybe he supports something even more decentralized, like offering shots door-to-door. He says homelessness is due to drug addiction/substance abuse and mental illness. His solution is to greatly expand the courts so that every homeless individual could be taken into "protective custody," thence to put them in privately owned community care centers for treatment; and to create a cabinet-level homelessness authority. In short, to create a large, highly invasive health care program to force state-approved treatments on people who do not necessarily consent. This from the same party that says vaccines should be voluntary. He says that California has done nothing to plan for water infrastructure for the past 75 years! He, like Lodge, calls for the building of more dams. "Return to prison the 20,000 convicted felons that Newsom released in May 2020." Okay, so we're going to have to expand the courts even more. Other than all of that, the usual lack of specifics.
  • Jenny Rae Le Roux. This one's got an education: "a B.A. in Economics from the University of Virginia and an MBA from Columbia Business School." "She is a frequent presenter at Harvard Business School, the Wharton School of Business." She mentions starting at Bain, which is (was?) Mitt Romney's company. She's the only one of these candidates to say something about the wildfires on her campaign website: "Manage 4M acres of federal, state and private land using logging and controlled burn permits to reduce wildfires." Nothing specific, but it's a mention. She also says California should invest in "water storage," not necessarily dams. This suggests to me she might actually know something about water. But other than that, her position is platitudes and vagueness.
  • Diego Martinez. He makes no pretense of being an English major. Says he will fight to overturn Jones v. City of Los Angeles, meaning he wants to criminalize homelessness. Then he would "build state-run encampments." Manzanar is now a NPS-managed National Historic Site, so they can't use that, but there is still a lot of open space east of the Sierra. He wants to triple the amount of logging in the state. He wants to extend and widen highways throughout the state. "He will make the teaching of CRT or any other divisive Marxist, Socialist propaganda off limits in California school K-12." He thinks we have more than one state legislature. "Diego will end the gun roster restrictions, repeal the current ammo laws and bans on magazines." Neither he, nor any of the other candidates here, suggest how they will get any proposal through a legislature with Democratic super-majorities in both houses. "Diego’s first step will be to repeal the background check on ammo and will eliminate the non-California gun list, allowing all guns to be sold in California again." He would give illegal immigrants six months to turn themselves in, whereupon they would be given a 4-year work permit. After that, they would get a green card. The catch is, all of that is a federal issue and has nothing to do with who is governor of California. His solutions for homelessness are a sort of rambling wishlist. First, he says all the state's cities and counties should form a JPA. IOW, essentially recreate the state government. Why not just use the existing state government? That JPA should come up with a plan. He acknowledges that one of the problems is the lack of low-priced housing! Weirdly, this is something none of his fellow Republicans are aware of. "Every existing drug and needle dispensary throughout the state will be shut down." Drug dispensaries, as he calls them, are called pharmacies by most people. Shutting down all pharmacies is an idea that wouldn't fly even in Texas. "Faith based groups, habitat for Humanity, and other private building groups could build, remodel and repurpose buildings to provide shelter." And the money for this would come from where? Taxes? "Schools K-12 will no longer be able to indoctrinate our children with Anti American, Marxist, LGBTQ + propaganda." Oh, he said it out loud.

permalink | July 17, 2021 at 03:43 PM | Comments (0)

Three Strikes for Gaetz and Greene

  1. First, they were kicked out of the Pacific Hills Banquet & Event Center in Laguna Hills (Orange County).
  2. So they moved on to less sophisticated and more Republican Riverside County, but yesterday they got kicked out of the Riverside Convention Center.
  3. So the two quickly switched to the M3 Live Anaheim Event Center in Anaheim. But today that site has also given them the boot.

The rally was supposed to have taken place tonight. My suggestion (as if they would ask me) would have been to choose a venue in the Republican armpit of Riverside County, that is, the Temecula-Murrieta metropolis of fools.

UPDATE: Ultimately, they held a rally outside Riverside City Hall. The crowd was estimated at over 300 people.

permalink | July 17, 2021 at 12:40 PM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2021

Milky Way Over Los Angeles

A composite of two images shot from Mt. Wilson on July 4 by Reddit user wuwu24
. Discussion here. He writes:

Never thought I'd see milky way in LA, but that was exactly what happened on 7/4th at midnight. After the fireworks subsided, the milky way appeared over the LA sky, as blankets of smoke from fireworks enveloped the city, effectively blocking light pollution from reaching the sky. This photo is a composite of two images, taken merely 2 hours apart, at the same location - starry sky at 12:19am and city foreground at 9:51pm.

Also, he offers a timelapse.

permalink | July 14, 2021 at 02:28 PM | Comments (0)

July 10, 2021

How Hot Is It?

This is from the report of Riverside County Health Department inspections in the Press-Enterprise:

Little Caesars, 4553 La Sierra Ave., Riverside
Closed: July 2
Grade: Not graded
Reason: Excessive heat, inoperable exhaust hood. Visiting in response to a complaint — the second in two weeks — the inspector measured the air temperature at 105 degrees in the pizza prep area, 103 at the front counter and 89 in the dough prep area, while the pizza prep fridge was 60 degrees inside. Additionally, the exhaust hood had been altered in an unapproved way. The restaurant was told it would need to fix the air conditioner and hood before it would be permitted to reopen.
Reopened: July 3

permalink | July 10, 2021 at 11:27 AM | Comments (0)

July 7, 2021

More Beavers

In Placer County, beavers were re-introduced to a dried-out floodplain. In three years, and at a cost of only $58,000, the beavers restored 60 acres of floodplain. Estimated costs for doing it the "traditional" way with heavy machinery were one- to two-million dollars for a project that would have taken a decade.

permalink | July 7, 2021 at 09:08 AM | Comments (0)

July 6, 2021

"No evidence of fraud in Riverside County 2020 election, grand jury says"

From the Press-Enterprise:

By JEFF HORSEMAN | jhorseman@scng.com | The Press-Enterprise
PUBLISHED: July 6, 2021 at 1:39 p.m. | UPDATED: July 6, 2021 at 1:42 p.m.

A civil grand jury probe into how Riverside County handled the November 2020 election found no evidence of election fraud or malfeasance by those who ran polling places and counted votes.

While there were “minor departures from expected election procedures” that were later corrected, “the election was conducted as required” and “votes were accurately counted and verified,” read a 41-page report posted on the grand jury’s website Friday, July 2.

In an emailed statement, county spokeswoman Brooke Federico said the county is reviewing the report and will respond within the legally required 90-day timeframe. That means the county should respond by the end of September.

Civil grand juries are citizens empaneled by a judge to examine public agencies’ inner workings, identify problems and suggest improvements.

Hunt for Capitol attackers still on 6 months after Jan. 6
Questions and doubts about the Nov. 3 general election persist more than 7 months after the results were certified, driven by former President Donald Trump and his supporters who falsely claim the election was rigged. Courts have rejected dozens of lawsuits seeking to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory, and anger over Biden’s win fueled the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection.

Roughly 82% of Riverside County’s registered voters — more than 1 million people — cast ballots in the general election, the highest turnout since at least 1999 if not in county history. Of those votes, 89% were cast by mail, according to the jury.

Unlike past elections, every California voter got a ballot in the mail to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and the county consolidated its vast network of neighboring voting precincts into 130 voter assistance centers that could be used by any registered voter.

Locally, voters complained of receiving more than one ballot and getting their voter information guides after they mailed their ballots. Registrar of Voters Rebecca Spencer said built-in safeguards ensure voters can’t vote more than once and that her office sent the voter guides to the post office before the ballots, an assertion backed up by the jury.

Spencer also has accused District Attorney Mike Hestrin of interfering with her office. Hestrin denied any wrongdoing and the jury’s report did not address Spencer’s allegations.

Citing voters’ concerns and ongoing election doubts, the jury decided to investigate the county’s handling of the last election. Jurors interviewed dozens of election workers, city clerks, city managers, Sheriff’s Department staff, elected officials and others, visited Registrar of Voters’ facilities on Nov. 3 and 4 and examined 76 documents and 18 websites and videos.

City officials “expressed gratitude (to Spencer’s staff) for keeping them well informed” of election law changes and the county elections office “made extensive efforts to inform voters of their voting options,” the jury found.

Elections workers were well-trained, and while a technical problem temporarily disrupted in-person voting at voter centers and there were some long lines to vote in person, the county followed the law in conducting the election, the jury found.

While county registrars help fix inaccuracies in the statewide voter registration database, maintaining that database is up to the Secretary of State, the jury’s report read. Complaints about the location of ballot drop-off boxes and the practice of people dropping off other voters’ ballots — a legal practice derisively known in conservative circles as “ballot harvesting” — are beyond the jury’s purview, according to the report.

“The evidence is conclusive that ballots were accurately processed, counted, and reported,” the report read.

“The abundance of evidence leads to the conclusion, Yes, the November 2020 election within Riverside County was administered fairly and impartially and there is no evidence of fraud.’” The report noted that Hestrin’s office, which is responsible for prosecuting voter fraud, has found no evidence of widespread fraud.

The jury offered recommendations to improve future elections, including having the registrar submit a detailed plan on mailing voter guides and vote-by-mail ballots; more videos for voters explaining how ballots are processed and certified; allowing the public to view a livestreamed video of ballot processing and a plan to generate election results faster.

permalink | July 6, 2021 at 02:42 PM | Comments (0)

June 29, 2021

Four Slide Photos

Glass Insulator (1)
Kodachrome, 1992

Balusters on Charles River Esplanade
On the Charles River Esplanade
, 1983.

MTV Malibu Beach House on CAR2
The MTV Malibu Beach House
which was one of the rest stops on California AIDS Ride 2. Kodachrome, 1995.

My First Time in Los Angeles County
Me and Michael
, this was my first time in Los Angeles County. Kodachrome, 1995.

permalink | June 29, 2021 at 05:02 PM | Comments (0)

June 28, 2021

36 Joshua Trees Destroyed

The L.A. Times reports that this occurred in the "Morongo Basin" which is a large area including at least Morongo Valley and Yucca Valley. According to the San Bernardino County Sheriff it also includes Twenty-nine Palms, Landers, Johnson Valley, Joshua Tree, Wonder Valley, Pioneertown, Amboy, Cadiz and Flamingo Heights. I can't imagine why the L.A. Times couldn't be a little more specific. The story:

Couple fined $18,000 for bulldozing dozens of Joshua trees to make way for home

JUNE 28, 2021 1:58 PM PT

A couple who bulldozed and buried 36 Joshua trees to make way for a home were recently fined $18,000 — a punishment authorities hope will deter others from destroying the iconic trees.

“I would hope that the person that would otherwise take, remove, bulldoze a Joshua tree would understand that they are facing fairly significant criminal liability for doing so,” said Douglas Poston, supervising deputy district attorney with the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office.

An investigation into the destruction began Feb. 11, when a Morongo Basin resident saw his neighbors using a tractor to mow down dozens of the twisted, bristled trees and reported it to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife through a tip line, wildlife officials said.

Not long before, the neighbor — who was not identified — noticed the trees were marked for removal and warned Jeffrey Walter and Jonetta Nordberg-Walter not to take them out.

The western Joshua tree is a candidate for protection under the California Endangered Species Act. It is illegal to cut down, damage or remove the sensitive desert tree without a permit while they’re under review for more lasting protection.

According to Poston, the couple believed that small trees, under a certain diameter, could legally be removed. The two own the land where the trees were and planned to build a home on the lot.

“But that’s not accurate, obviously,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a foot tall or 20 feet tall, it’s under that protection.”

By the time a state wildlife officer arrived at the scene, three dozen Joshua trees were buried in a “giant hole” that was freshly covered over, according to Patrick Foy, a captain with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s law enforcement division.

Ultimately, the owner-developer couple rehired the backhoe operator who had buried the trees to dig them back up.

The county district attorney’s office filed 36 misdemeanor charges against Walter and Nordberg-Walter, one for each destroyed tree. Each charge carried a fine up to $4,100 and/or six months in jail.

On Tuesday, a judge placed the couple in a diversion program. As part of their agreement, each agreed to pay $9,000 in fines.

A portion of the overall fine has been paid, and the Walter family can earn credit toward it by completing volunteer work for Joshua Tree National Park or the Mojave Desert Land Trust, according to a news release.

Poston said he sees a few cases a year involving threatened or endangered species, “but usually it’s wildlife.” This is the first case he’s prosecuted involving Joshua trees.

The flora has enjoyed legal protection for nearly a year.

In September, the California Fish and Game Commission granted the trees temporary endangered species status after environmentalists petitioned for its protection. Supporters say the species faces the threat of extinction amid climate change, wildfires and habitat destruction from urban sprawl.

A yearlong review process is underway, and a final decision by the commission is expected this year.

permalink | June 28, 2021 at 10:03 PM | Comments (1)

June 24, 2021

Last Free Cow Captured

The chitchat at this unreliable site is that someone with sufficient means is going to have the cow sent to an animal sanctuary in Acton, California. (My shallow Google search says there are three animal sanctuaries in Acton!). In other words, Bessie is moving upstate to a big beautiful farm where she can lie in tall cool grass in a huge meadow all day long. When can we go see her?

permalink | June 24, 2021 at 10:33 PM | Comments (0)

June 20, 2021

CAR2 Photos, plus a recent one from Whitewater

Whitewater Preserve (2183)
Whitewater Preserve
. This is a pano I shot with my iPhone last month.

California Mens Colony (2)
On California AIDS Ride 2
, Ektachrome, 1995.

Lake Cachuma (1)
Lake Cachuma
, one of our overnight campsites on CAR2. Ektachrome, 1995.

Striped Tights
Striped tights on CAR2
, Ektachrome, 1995.

permalink | June 20, 2021 at 08:34 PM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2021

California(?) Traffic Break

Here's a video showing a traffic break being put into effect by the California Highway Patrol on a freeway in the Bay Area. They do this when debris needs to be cleared from a highway, or when they need to do a quick, temporary patch for a pothole. They should do this in all 50 states plus DC, but I never saw it before I came to California and when I've mentioned it to some non-Californians they say they never saw it in their home states.

permalink | June 18, 2021 at 08:42 PM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2021

Ranking States by Prevalence of STDs

The 2019 report from the CDC (PDF).

Chlamydia: Alaska has the highest rate (848.1/100,000); California is in 15th place with 598.4; national average is 552.8.

Gonorrhea: Mississippi is highest at 404.1; California is in 18th place with 203.0; national average is 188.4.

Primary and Secondary Syphilis: Nevada is highest at 26.6; California is in 4th place with 20.9; national average is 11.9.

Congenital Syphilis: Texas is highest at 138.2; California is in 6th place with 94.3; national average is 48.5. Seven states reported ZERO congenital syphilis.

permalink | June 16, 2021 at 03:25 PM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2021

Crowded National Parks

A Wall Street Journal article about the increasing popularity of our decreasingly funded national parks.

The jump is boosting economies in places like Moab, where surrounding Grand County recently reported the highest sales and use tax revenue ever in the third and fourth quarters of a year, said Chris Baird, county administrator. Businesses are so desperate for workers that a Moab McDonald’s has a sign offering $18 an hour, more than double the state’s minimum wage.

I don't know if it's really the same issue that I observed just last Thursday in Joshua Tree N.P. I drove to the Wall Street Mill parking area, intending to hike to (you'll never guess) Wall Street Mill. There was a "Parking Lot Full" sign on the Barker Dam parking area as I passed it, but there were only 2 or 3 cars in WSM parking. I saw 3 or 4 people on the trail to and back from Wall Street Mill. The Park Service has put up fresh (fresh to me, anyway) wire around the mill. No breaks. All the No Trespassing signs were upright. I was happy just to see that some loony hadn't torn down half the place in these COVID times.

When I got back to the trailhead I was feeling pretty good; the arthritis was not complaining too much. And it was the golden hour. So I decided to continue my hike on to Barker Dam, leaving my truck where it was. I followed the trail that joins up with the Barker Dam trail and then continued just to the dam and came back. That trail was busy! Well, busier than I was expecting it to be on a weekday with temperatures in the 90s. Eventually I realized that NO ONE in this diverse crowd of hikers (women & men, no kids, all races, multiple languages, some mixed groups, some homogenous) was older than about 35 except me.

The Barker Dam trail is just about the easiest trail in the park, and you get quite a bit of bang for only a little investment in walking - so it's just right for me. But these other hikers that looked like they'd been cast by Hollywood for a film about healthy, outdoor living? Why weren't they doing something a little more challenging? Or maybe the question is where are all the other over-35s? Sitting in their A/C maybe.

My final best guess is maybe a lot of people plan weekends in the high desert that starts with them leaving work after lunch on Thursday. They arrive at their accommodations in Joshua Tree (or, you know, wherever) and they have less than 3 hours of daylight left, so in their youthful excitement, they rush into the park and pick the safest, shortest hike they could squeeze in. I'm just making this up.

By the way, on my whole hike, both WSM and Barker Dam, I saw only one person wearing a mask. I did not wear one. I tried to avoid getting into one of those narrow parts with opposite direction hikers.

But the real highlight of the hike was a bird. On the hike into the dam I had heard the bird back in the shrubberies hammering with his beak, very woodpecker like, but I'm not saying it was a woodpecker. Then on my return hike the bird had come out to perch on a waist-high boulder in a curve at one of those narrow points. And it was fearless! I started out about 3 feet from him taking photos. The noise didn't seem to bother him. I moved closer and he shifted, but did not retreat. I stepped to my right and he pivoted, displaying himself in profile, keeping his eye on me. I took several photos. All black and white film, so we won't see those for at least a couple of weeks.

permalink | June 13, 2021 at 10:37 PM | Comments (0)

Descent To The Pacific Coast Highway

This is all fine until you come around one of those curves and find some big road kill or a chunk of a vehicle lying across your path.

permalink | June 13, 2021 at 08:48 PM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2021

Mountain Lion PSA

how to deal with a mountain lion

permalink | June 12, 2021 at 01:05 PM | Comments (0)

June 8, 2021

Some More Slides

Griffith Observatory (23)
Griffith Observatory
, Kodachrome, 1995. This was after completing the California AIDS Ride from San Francisco. My first time in L.A.

LA to SF (2)
This is on the return bike ride I did with Michael from L.A. back to San Francisco on our own
. Kodachrome, 1995. This is probably on our first day, which was (IIRC) from Sherman Oaks to Ojai.

Boston Public Garden (2)
The Boston Public Garden
, Kodachrome, 1989.

Gate on a Family Plot (1)
A family plot
, but I have no recollection of which cemetery. Kodachrome, 1989.

permalink | June 8, 2021 at 07:33 PM | Comments (0)

June 6, 2021

This Is Satisfying

A Twitter triptych of a male Karen in San Francisco getting his comeuppance. The delivery worker helpfully includes the Karen's home address. If the harassing man is the owner, then he bought that place just five months ago for $2,900,000. I'd be curious to know where he lived before. Living in San Francisco may be a big cultural shift for him.

[UPDATE: I see on other websites that people have uncovered the harasser's name and claim he moved to San Francisco from Alabama.]

Someone has helpfully turned the three tweets into one video:

permalink | June 6, 2021 at 04:21 PM | Comments (0)